Adolescents’ and teachers’ experience of shared education: a small-scale qualitative study in Northern Ireland

Caitlin Donnelly*, Rebecca Loader, Aisling McLaughlin, Lesley Emerson

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article explores adolescents’ and teachers’ interpretations of shared education through interviews with participating teachers and pupils in one school partnership in Northern Ireland. As an initiative explicitly designed to bring pupils from Catholic and majority Protestant schools together, shared education offers potential for building intergroup relations in Northern Ireland where, despite a peace agreement in 1998, life continues to be characterised by deep political and cultural division. Drawing on the qualitative data from the two participating schools, the research reveals the complexities of contact amongst adolescents in divided contexts so that, although some students frame shared education experiences in positive terms, others are discomfited by the process and report negative experiences. It argues that as adolescents’ tendency towards self-consciousness and social unease may be intensified in shared education programmes, more attention might be placed on their unique characteristics when designing and planning shared classes.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalCambridge Journal of Education
Early online date28 Apr 2024
Publication statusEarly online date - 28 Apr 2024


  • intergroup contact
  • negative relations
  • shared education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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